How volunteering helps others – and you

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Volunteering your time can have an important impact on the companies and nonprofit organizations that depend on volunteers to help advance their mission and deliver their programs and services. In fact, volunteers contribute nearly $200 billion in value to their communities, with a volunteer hour estimated to be $29.95. Americans spend an average of 52 hours per year volunteering, with food collection and distribution, tutoring, general labor and fundraising found to be the most common activities. Giving back to your community through volunteering not only benefits the organization or cause you’re passionate about, but can offer many positive rewards to you as well.

Here are five ways volunteering is good for your mind, body and spirit:

  1. Volunteering is good for your health.
    The correlation between happiness and health has long been studied, and it’s been shown that there are many health benefits including increased physical and mental activity for volunteers, especially for older adults. Volunteering is also shown to provide mental health benefits, including a decreased risk of depression, reduced stress levels, lessened symptoms of chronic pain and even a longer life expectancy.
  2. Volunteering helps you meet others and make friends.
    Being a volunteer can be a great way to connect with others who share your interests and values — sometimes becoming supportive, lifelong friends. Especially if you move to a new city or want to get to know more members of your community, volunteering can help broaden your network with people from different backgrounds, age groups and ethnicities. If you volunteer with fellow employees, it can give you an opportunity to get to know people from other departments or make professional connections that could help advance your career.
  3. Volunteering can teach you new skills or help you share existing skills with others.
    Joining a group of volunteers often provides an exciting opportunity to gain new skills that can enhance both your personal and professional life. As a volunteer, you may be able to practice your public speaking or leadership abilities or enhance your problem-solving, project planning and task management skills — all of which can be transferable to your resume. If you’ve always wanted to learn carpentry or another trade, for example, there are many organizations that provide the chance to gain a satisfying new skillset. On the flip side, if you have knowledge that could be useful to others, volunteering can offer a rewarding opportunity to share your skills with a larger group.
  4. Volunteering can make you feel connected to your community.
    There’s a pride of place that comes from volunteering in your local community, whether it involves serving on a local board or committee, volunteering in a classroom, picking up trash in your neighborhood or helping out at community events. You can see the effects of your efforts and how your involvement has made a positive impact. If you’re able to volunteer as a family, you can spend valuable time together, while instilling in your children the value of donating their time and helping others within their community.
  5. Volunteering can bolster your sense of fulfillment, purpose and meaning.
    Engaging in volunteer activities that help others and drive change can greatly increase your self-confidence and overall life satisfaction. You often gain a sense of accomplishment through volunteering, which is commonly tied to increased feelings of fulfillment and a more positive outlook on the world. Research has found that people with a strong sense of purpose often maintain an optimistic outlook on life even in times of stress, and can weather life’s ups and downs with more resilience.

Along with the numerous advantages to the organization or community, volunteering can be a rewarding experience for the people donating their time. Many people include volunteering in their retirement goals and would like to spend more time helping causes that are important to them. By creating a sound financial plan, you can ensure you have the savings you need for the future, allowing you greater freedom to do the activities that bring you joy in retirement.

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